Ok, so I said this site wouldn’t just be for milspouses (military spouses) — and it isn’t. BUT, I was recently asked by my husband’s Commander to write a statement to be shared with the Governor of Nebraska regarding the sacrifices I’ve made thus far as a military spouse and why amendments to professional license requirements are imperative for us. It’s a sacrifice that doesn’t immediately come to mind when people hear your wed to a service member. Btw, I swear this will also (maybe) be my longest post. A lot of this may sound familiar to you.
Military Spouses, Professional Licenses and Sacrifice
I’ve always known I would become an attorney. Since I was a child, I’ve had an affinity for helping people, writing and public speaking. At a young age, I thought the aforementioned skills would be the only qualifiers I’d need to attain my goal. As I matured, however, and more fully explored the field of law, I realized so much more would be required.
After college, and following a short career detour, an entrance exam (the LSAT), three years of arduous full-time schooling (to the point where it’s recommended that you don’t work during this time), several internships, an ethics exam, a $1,000 two-day bar exam, a summer-long $4,000 prep course for said exam, and a mountain (hundreds of thousands of dollars, even with scholarships) of law school debt later, I found myself licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia and working in my dream field.
Looking back now, it’s funny that everything required of prospective attorneys can fit into one sentence; a sentence that doesn’t even begin to describe the years of stress, pressure, late nights, early mornings, hunger (both literal and figurative) I endured before I could set foot in a courtroom and call myself an “attorney”. And I was one of the lucky ones. Many of my classmates went through all of the above, only to come out on the other side still searching for job opportunities.
All of that to say, the amount of investment required to acquire a professional license like mine, is significant. Not only does it take a financial toll, but an emotional one as well. Those of us who seek one are told it will be worth it. We make plans to squeeze absolutely every bit of worth out of our licenses and careers. Post law school, we continue on with our lives. We engross ourselves in our careers. We find love. We start families. Many of us wed members of the military.
But herein lies the crux of the issue.
The hurdles military spouses who hold professional licenses face are significant. Frequent moves across the country present the largest issue because, at least for attorneys, each state requires the spouse go through the licensing process all over again. This often means a long applications, months of processing time and a hefty fee that costs more than the price of the bar exam every, single, time our service member is commanded to move. This can be anywhere from every few months, to every couple of years.
Meanwhile, the military spouse’s career languishes. He or she faces either gaps in employment that they must somehow explain during the next permanent change of station (PCS) move, or working at a job that doesn’t match their skill set and underpays them. We end up working at fast food places, management offices, etc., taking on any position that will supplement our household income. It’s a situation I now find myself in, in the state of Nebraska, where my Georgia law license does me no good, unless I fork over nearly $1000 to apply for admission by motion. After that, I must still wait up to 120 days for my application to be processed and, of course, find a job. By then, my husband and I will be a year into our service in Nebraska and gearing up for another move.
We, military spouses, willingly sacrifice our careers for our country, our spouse, and our love of both. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This is why amendments to rules like Neb. Ct. R. 3-119 are vitally important. The Supreme Court of the State of Nebraska recently approved, thanks to a push by the Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSJDN), an amendment to that rule that will create a new class of law license applicants by motion, “Class 1-D” applicants, which is specific to military spouse attorneys. The amendment will grant a license to practice law to spouses of uniformed services members while on orders to the state. I can’t help but be excited by the prospect, even though we are still awaiting the adoption of the amendment, and further information regarding exactly how its provisions will aid military spouses. It’s my hope that other states follow suit, and that barriers continue to be broken for military spouses.
If you’re a milspouse with a law license, look into becoming an MSJDN member. It’s already become such a great resource for me.